American interest in income inequality: stagnant

by Vinnie Rotondaro

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The gap between the rich and the rest of us continues to grow. But just as American wages have stagnated, so too has the public’s interest in combating income inequality. 

So says this article in the Associated Press, which pulls data from the General Social Survey and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. 

“The public's focus on income inequality has remained stagnant over the past 36 years,” the AP article states. “Republican support for the government doing something to narrow the gap between rich and poor reached an all-time low in 2014, and even Democrats were slightly less interested in government action to address the issue than they were two years ago.”

“Less than half of Americans — 46 percent — say the government ought to reduce income differences between the rich and the poor, a level that has held fairly steady since the survey began asking the question in 1978. Thirty-seven percent say the government shouldn't concern itself with income differences, while the rest don't feel strongly either way.”

“Division between Democrats and Republicans on the issue is at its widest point ever, with 64 percent of Democrats, but only 24 percent of Republicans, saying the government ought to do something to address it. The survey also finds a significant gap between different income groups. Only a third of those making more than $75,000 a year, but more than half of those making less than $30,000, want the government to take action. Younger adults — those under age 35 — are more likely than older adults to say the government should do something about the gap.”

The article quotes the Center for American Progress’ John Halpin: "This is an elite debate, and it's filtered through partisan lenses,” he says. “It hasn't been strong enough to change the public's mind."

And yet, “it’s not necessarily the case that Americans don't see income inequality as a problem,” the article states. “A Pew Research Center poll conducted in 2012 found 65 percent of Americans think the income gap has grown in the past 10 years, and 57 percent think that's a bad thing.”

[Vinnie Rotondaro is NCR national correspondent. His email address is]

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